Un Certain Regard’s 2022 Best Screenplay winner is a disarming odd-couple story of middle age, male bonding and mental health in the Middle East.
Fortysomething family man and aspiring writer Waleed is making no headway with his novel. His chronic depression doesn’t help, but he refuses to take the medication prescribed by his psychiatrist. Things only get worse when a headstrong new neighbour, Jalal, moves into the building. Seemingly oblivious to the concepts of time or noise, the nonchalant Jalal initially irritates Waleed but soon becomes a source of inspiration, then friendship and ultimately – in Waleed’s eyes – a solution.
Palestinian director Maha Haj’s second feature is an acutely observed drama, spiced with comedy and creeping tension, that explores the dynamics of mid-life male friendship. Set and filmed in Haifa, with an exclusively Palestinian cast, Mediterranean Fever is carried by remarkable central performances from Amer Hlehel and Ashraf Farah, both bringing meticulous nuance to characters whose individual struggles seem a world apart but ultimately bring them closer together. And while the trauma of living under occupation is a backdrop that underscores the two men’s actions, it is never explicitly Haj’s focus; this is a much more personal tale.
“Keeping us guessing right up to the end, Haj’s anecdotal comedy about depression is a refreshing look at the region’s political turmoil with a lovely friendship at its heart.” – Cineuropa
Arabic, with English subtitles
Palestine, Germany, France, Cyprus, Qatar